This is a place that is close by, absolutely gorgeous, very affordable, and best of all, packed with fun things to do.
When you think of camping, you might think of long hikes in the woods and long nights in the tent.
Here is what you might not expect -- a fun zone where campers bounce on a giant air pillow, conquer a fierce mechanical bull, hop a little train into the forest, lounge by a swimming pool, soak in a hot tub, catch an outdoor movie, or even get a hot pizza delivered right to your campsite.
The KOA campground in Santa Cruz is in the forefront of a popular trend -- camping with a few more comforts and a lot more entertainment.
"I like to go on the mechanical bull because it's challenging for other kids," says Nica Espinosa of Lafayette.
"I love the banana bikes," says Samantha Lovelace of Morago. "We've gone on them for hours over and over again."
If you can think of an activity, you might find it here. There is a climbing wall, a miniature golf course, video game arcade, ping-pong, a big campfire for making s'mores, volleyball sand pit, basketball court, hot dogs for a buck, and even espresso coffee for the grownups.
Bob Mills of Modesto and his two daughters spend a whole month here every summer.
"They love all the activities here in the campground -- jumping pillow, the climbing wall and the banana bikes," says Mills. "I like it for the peace and tranquility."
And he loves the price. The entire month costs him under $3,000, and that is with everything included. RV sites average about $70 per night. Tent sites about $50. And if you want more comfort, Airstreams rent for about $150 per night, complete with kitchen and remote controlled TV.
There are also spacious lodges renting for up to $240 per night providing a kitchen and beds for six people.
"It's one of the nicest ways to explore this wonderful state of California by just traveling around, and it's affordable," says Erik Loot of the Netherlands.
"Most of the campgrounds, like Detroit and stuff, don't have as much stuff to do," says Destiny Reynolds of Salem, Oregon. "I like to do the tent, but you also want to have something to do while you're up." Campground manager Sally Phillips says more people these days are trying out this rustic style of vacationing. It's kind of like "roughing it in comfort."
"With the economy the way it is, camping is just definitely a choice that people are making to take their vacations," says Phillips. "It keeps families just busy all the time doing all of the activities that we offer."
So, when they're not challenging the great outdoors they can be here, challenging the great bull. And who's counting how many times they may be thrown?
"A couple billion I think," says Lovelace. "Every single time I go on, I fall off."
This is just one of several campgrounds close to home that are geared up for entertaining families. The prices here and other places depend on when you book and how many in your party.
- Campland on the Bay
- Coloma Resort in Coloma
- Marble Quarry RV Park
- Redwoods River Resort & Campground
- San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA
- Santa Cruz KOA
- Smithwoods RV Park
- Stockton-Delta KOA
You can find even more information at www.camp-california.com.
More staycation ideas from 7 On Your Side:
- Destination: Marin Coast
- Destination: USS Potomac
- Destination: Morton Warm Springs
- Destination: Safari West
- Destination: San Francisco